It is important to make sure that a backpack properly fits a child. The American Physical Therapy Association reports that over 50% of children are over-packing their bags. Of these kids, approximately a third of them complain of back pain. Some of this back pain requires kids to head to their doctor. When this happens, they often miss school and come back with physical activity restrictions from their injuries.

School professionals must work with students and families to ensure that they are aware of steps that will help them to select the proper backpack. A backpack should fit so that it lies above the waist. It should never fall more than four inches below this. Padded straps on backpacks that tighten will often help this, but it is also important to make sure a bag is not too large or too small for the child using it. In addition to this, many backpacks come with buckles around the waist. Using these help to distribute the weight on the back.

Be sure that backpacks are not too heavy. This means that they should not weigh more than 10-15 percent of an individual’s weight. It’s also crucial to pack items within the bag in a way that will help to distribute the mass. The heaviest things within the backpack should be closest to the back. Performing this key step helps to decrease stress on a child’s spine. If a bag has multiple compartments, utilize them to assist with weight distribution.

If a child must carry extremely heavy loads to and from school, it may be a good idea to get a backpack with wheels. Signs that it may be needed are red marks on a child’s shoulders. They also may have pain in their back and neck. The pain could potentially radiate down their arms and cause their hands to tingle. Looking into a backpack on wheels should be the first step in alleviating this pain.

School nurses and physical therapists could encourage backpack safety by spending time in classrooms to explain how to prevent backpack-related pain and injuries. Work together to come up with a handout that students can take home to encourage parents to check their bags. In addition to this, ask to have a moment at an open house or assembly to share the information with families that may miss papers that go home.